Does John Ashcroft’s ‘Camp Plan’ Actually Exist?

Did you know that John Ashcroft has announced that he intends to put “U.S. citizens he deems to be enemy combatants” into camps? Well best selling author: Michael Moore: has heard about it and it reminds him of the Nazi concentration camps…

“Meanwhile, Attorney General John Ashcroft proposed camps–and not the kind where you make ‘Smores over a campfire–for US citizens who he deems enemy combatants. Detainees at these concentrated camps would be stripped of their Constitutional rights. With only two “enemy combatants” so far, we’ll have to find some more soon to make it a really good, fun camp. All hail the mutterland!”

The: Democratic Underground: has heard all about Ashcroft’s plan too. For them it hearkens back to Japanese internment camps from WW2….

“Attorney General John Ashcroft has got some fabulous new ideas for Dubya’s war on terror. The latest and greatest idea is one which will not be unfamiliar to those who remember World War II: internment camps!”

Other publications like the “Online Journal” seemed puzzled as to why this story hasn’t been all over the news….

“George W. Bush’s power-crazed attorney general, John Ashcroft, is now proposing to set up “camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be ‘enemy combatants.'”

You probably didn’t hear a word about this on so-called television news and definitely not on Wednesday night’s Nightline”

Indeed, the Online Journal was correct. Although this story has spread far and wide across the internet, it’s gotten very little attention from the mainstream press with one notable exception (which will be discussed shortly). For example, I did a search for the words “Ashcroft” & “Camps” on: CNN,: Fox News, &: MSNBCand I didn’t find a single reference to this story. That seems a bit odd at first glance doesn’t it? You’d think a story like this would create a virtual tsunami of hostile press coverage. Oddly enough, every single reference to this story that I found on the net seemed to be somehow linked to a single editorial written by Johnathan Turley in the LA Times.

In Turley’s August 14th piece called ‘Camps for Citizens: Ashcroft’s Hellish Vision,’ Johnathan Turley states over and over again in the article that John Ashcroft intends to create “camps” for American citizens.

In Turley’s editorial, the word “camp” or “camps” appears eight times. Turley refers to Ashcroft’s “announced desire for camps.” He twice mentions Ashcroft’s “camp plan.” Later in the article, a shocked Turley notes that Ashcroft’s wants to ‘reestablish’ camps like the Japanese internment camps from WW2. Apparently the “only” difference is that Ashcroft is “thinking smaller,”

“Few would have imagined any attorney general seeking to reestablish such camps for citizens. Of course, Ashcroft is not considering camps on the order of the internment camps used to incarcerate Japanese American citizens in World War II. But he can be credited only with thinking smaller.”

Considering that the WW2 camps held a 120,000+ Americans that still gives Ashcroft a lot of room to work with. Just in case the point hasn’t already been driven home yet, Turley finishes with this,

“Every generation has its test of principle in which people of good faith can no longer remain silent in the face of authoritarian ambition. If we cannot join together to fight the abomination of American camps, we have already lost what we are defending.”

Indeed the specter of Japanese internment camps or worse yet, Nazi-style concentration camps, would certainly be a frightening prospect. But again, why wasn’t the mainstream press jumping all over this one? I found that puzzling…at first.

So I decided to do a little more research into Ashcroft’s “camp plan.” According to Turley’s article, “Ashcroft’s plan” was “disclosed last week but little publicized.” That’s not a lot to go on, but when you have: Google: at your fingertips this type of research usually isn’t all that hard.

Unfortunately, in this case I couldn’t find anything about Ashcroft’s “camp plan” that didn’t seem to be directly related to Turley’s article. It looked as if “Ashcroft’s plan” was “little publicized” indeed. So I decided to contact Mr. Turley himself from my: Brass Knuckles Webzine: email account to see if he could tell me where the story came from. Much to my surprise, he promptly replied this morning,

“The quick answer to your question is that no formal policy has been issued. The disclosure of the proposal first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on August 8th with confirmation from various unnamed aides to Ashcroft. Since the op-ed in the LA Times, various newspapers have confirmed the story and the internal deliberations over the structure and locations of such camps. The WSJ article has never been denied. There was no formal statement issued by Ashcroft and members of Congress are now inquiring into the status of the proposal. I hope that this helps.”

I certainly appreciated the reply Mr. Turley gave me. However, while he gets an “A” for courtesy, his grade for accuracy appears to be “F.”

To begin with, saying that “no formal policy has been issued” seems to be odds with Mr. Turley’s talk of an “Ashcroft plan.” Furthermore, despite Turley’s claim that “various newspapers have confirmed the story and the internal deliberations over the structure and locations of such camps,” I could only find one story in over an hour of searching that seemed to tie the August 8th WSJ story to the creation of “camps” in any way whatsoever. That was on the: World Socialist Web Site: and even though they were obviously familiar with both articles, they concluded Turley’s editorial referred to an “additional proposal”….

“To accommodate this new group of prisoners, a special wing to hold 20 US citizens has been prepared at the Goose Creek, South Carolina Navy Brig. According to George Washington University Professor of Law Jonathan Turley, Attorney General John Ashcroft last week announced an additional proposal to construct detention camps for US citizens deemed ‘enemy combatants.’

It’s easy to see why they came to that conclusion since the story Turley mentions as his source makes absolutely no mention of any “camps” being created by the US government or any sort of Ashcroft “camp plan.”

The article called “White House Seeks to Expand Indefinite Detentions in brigs” focuses on the “constitutional showdown” between the Bush administration and the Federal courts over the ‘enemy combatant’ status of Jose Padilla & Yaser Hamdi. Presumably, Turley’s entire screed in the LA Times sprang from the third paragraph of the piece,

“The White House is considering creating a high-level committee to decide which prisoners should be denied access to federal courts. The Goose Creek, S.C., facility that houses Mr. Padilla — mostly empty since it was designated in January to hold foreigners captured in the U.S. and facing military tribunals — now has a special wing that could be used to jail about 20 U.S. citizens if the government were to deem them enemy combatants, a senior administration official said.”

First off, whatever you may think of possibly jailing 20 “enemy combatants” without trial, doing so certainly does not in any way, shape, or form mean you’ve created a “camp.” Furthermore, how does imprisoning 20 men in one Navy brig somehow constitute creating “camps”, much less having a “camp plan?” Worse yet, to compare jailing less than two dozen people believed to be connected to terrorist organizations to putting 120,000+ Americans in camps based on their ethnicity goes beyond gross exaggeration into what many people would call deliberate deception.

This editorial raises a number of troubling questions. First off, why did Turley himself not mention that the Wall Street Journal article was the source for his claim right up front? Moreover, how is it that a paper with the stature of the Los Angeles Times could publish an editorial making these sorts of outrageous claims without asking the writer to disclose his source? Also, why hasn’t the LA Times been plastering their front page with screaming headlines about this incredible “scoop” that they’ve broken on their editorial page? Could it be that they did a little more research and found that the story had no merit? If so, why didn’t they set the record straight? Whatever the case may be, the LA Time’s readers deserve an explanation. Either the LA Times should explain why they’re unconscionably sitting on a huge story or they should make it clear that they’ve misled their readers. Sadly, I suspect that the latter is the case and that no correction will be forthcoming.

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